Birth Control (1917)

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Birth Control was a remarkable semi-documentary focusing upon the principal advocate of the titular policy, Margaret Sanger. The film traces Sanger's crusade to prevent and/or abort unwanted pregnancies among the poor and underprivileged, using the example of the unfortunate Helen Field as a "case study." The real-life Helen Field actually died because of her ignorance of Sanger's preventative theories, and as such she was regarded as a martyr to the Birth Control movement. At the time of the film's release, Margaret Sanger was regarded as a dangerous radical and as such spent a great deal of time in prison: The film re-enacts her most recent incarceration, detailing the humiliations she endured while behind bars. Cast as "herself," Margaret Sanger delivered a powerful, naturalistic performance, as did the professional actors and actresses playing the supporting roles. Nearly ninety years later, Dana Delany starred as Sanger in the TV movie Choices of the Heart: The Margaret Sanger Story (1995).